Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Years of Reviews

As I finished up my last review of an article for 2019, I checked out my spreadsheet where I keep track (sort of) of the reviews I do.  I discovered some patterns I wanted to think about:

The figure includes reviewing manuscripts for journals and for book publishers, grant applications for various funders, and tenure letters.  Obviously, the level of work varies--tenure letters are a lot more work than all the others, book reviews vary depending on whether one is reviewing an entire manuscript or just a proposal.  But I didn't choose to code stuff carefully for this blogpost because this is already a relatively unproductive use of my time!

Anyhow, I reviewed before 2006, but hadn't develop the habit of marking down the details in a spreadsheet.  A few things stick out:
  • on average, I review twice as much as I used to.
  • With the exception of 2018.
I tend to say yes to most review requests (see here for decision-making challenge of when to write tenure letters), but I have decided recently (too recently to affect any of the numbers except the last column) not to review stuff in the old field of ethnic conflict.  Because I am way, way behind in that literature and am no longer doing much work in that field (that may change, but not yet). 

I do get fewer requests, I think, to do tenure letters since Carleton is generally not see as peer-ish as McGill was.  Most provosts and deans want tenure letters to be written by scholars at peer institutions, and they tend to have a rather limited idea of what counts as peer.  So, I am guessing I would be getting more tenure letter requests if I had stayed at McGill.  The aforementioned change in research focus--from ethnic conflict to alliances and civ-mil relations--probably helps to explain why I get more requests.  That there are more articles that editors and editorial assistants that fit into what they think of as my expertise. 

There is something else going on--that there are more journals and more submissions to journals, so I may be getting more requests and doing more reviews as the need for reviewers intensifies.  Also, I joined a number of editorial boards, where the primary responsibility for being a member is to not say no when the editor needs to get some reviewers.  I have stepped off of a few as my shift has come to an end and, for one, as mentioned above, I can no longer be of much use. 

Oh, and 2018?  That was the year where I had a great deal of work to do with the second stage of the SSHRC Partnership Application, so I think I said no a bit more often. 

For 2020?  I expect to stay at my recent average of 18-20 or so--about 1.5 reviews a month.  However, if journals and presses do not ask me to review for them, I will not seek them out.  It is unpaid work, but a part of being a professional.  That and I learn a fair amount as the latest work contains all kinds of interesting ideas, useful citations, and stuff I don't know. 

Here's hoping that your new year is chock full of speedy, positive, and helpful reviews.

The Academic Journey Thus Far

A twitter conversation has led me to think about my academic journey

When I finished grad school in San Diego, I had no idea where I would end up.  

Our first stop was Burlington, Vermont for two years of visiting prof-ing.  I took that job hoping to cash it in and get one of the two tenure track lines there, but it didn't work out.  Looking back, I am glad it worked out as it did, even though it meant teaching at a place for a second year after being told in year one they didn't want to hire me for the long-term.  Awkward indeed.  But I learned how to teach, and their students were great.  And I improved my skiing ability and got my wife into skiing.  Plus our dog was most welcome in a community filled with large female dogs--his, um, preferred companions.

If I had a blog at the time, I might have
referred to her as ER-adjacent Spew.
Our second stop was Lubbock, Texas, where I was technically employed for seven years although we lived their for six.  This is where Baby Spew was born, which was handy since the ER was close by, and we visited it often.  I learned how to publish there (I had only one or two pubs before this job), and I learned how to teach large classes, which became pretty important at the next stop.  And we made friends with a great group of folks who all moved on.  While I was itching to get out as soon as we arrived, and I spent too much time on the job market before my record really changed very much, it turned out to be a good experience in retrospect.  It was a good place to get a lot of research done--a good teaching load, short commute, few students asking much of my time.  But the best part of that place--my friends--was the most temporary, as the department turned over quite a bit.

No, I didn't wear a uniform
in the Pentagon.  I just dressed
up like this as a prank
for a retiring colonel/boss.
Our next stop was Washington, DC for a fellowship that put me in the Pentagon.  This year stressed Mrs. Spew as I was hardly around (I left at 5am, returned around 7pm each day), the landlord was suboptimal, and, yeah, the building I worked in got attacked a couple of times (9/11, anthrax).  But it was a great year for me.  I drank from the firehose--learning so much about how the US military works and how the interagency works.  I went there to see the sausage get made, and did I!  Plus it bred questions that have driven my research since then--the NATO book and now legislative oversight.  I went there as an ethnic conflict specialist--the folks in the Balkan policy pit called me The Irredentist--and left seriously interested in civil-military relations.

Got to play with my daughter from
time to time in Montreal.
Which led to Montreal and McGill.  The transition to another country and especially Quebec was more challenging than we expected--importing one of our cars ate about eight Thursdays my first semester.  But Montreal had the best ultimate frisbee community of my life (Ottawa is close, but I feel like I moved here too late to fit in), great skiing nearby, amazing food, and, um, interesting politics.  McGill provided a great place to be challenged by super-smart, engaged students at all levels, and to learn much from sharp younger colleagues.  One consistency in my career is that the folks hired after me at each place have been so very sharp (yes, this is an implicit dig at the old farts at the non-Carleton places.  Ok, not so implicit). 

My colleague, Steph, drafted me to
speak to her class this fall on alliance stuff
And now Ottawa and Carleton.  Being in a national capital is great for someone who studies International Relations.  As I have been more and more interested in engaging the policy community, it helps to be there.  I learn a lot from folks I meet at events, at parties, at bars, etc.  It has definitely facilitated my efforts to build the CDSN.  It is also the first place I moved to where I knew people ahead of time, so it felt really welcome.  NPSIA and Carleton have been terrific to me, supporting my various efforts and recognizing me when I do good stuff.  Oh, and the frisbee fields are the softest, most convenient that I have experienced.  Older bodies need softer fields.

Throughout my career, I have wanted to move on from wherever I was at.  What will make the 2020s different from the prior decades of my career is this: I will not be on the job market.  I have now gone about eight years without having to think about the next place.  I am now of an age and of a job status that it is very, very unlikely that anyone would hire me--I am too old, too expensive, and too entitled (I am addicted to my endowed chair).  Oh, and I am too happy. 

I am well aware that I am much closer to the end of my career than the beginning, but I am ok with that.  The ride has been bumpy along the way, and things never turned out as I expected.  So much for walking from my house to my classroom in a liberal arts college.  Instead, I have had amazing opportunities to see much of the world, to shift research agendas, to teach entirely different types of students (undergrads to PhD students to policy-oriented MA students). 

Sure, I couldn't control where I did my stuff, but I can control what I do and how I do it.  The academic career, if one manages to get on the tenure track, can be a great ride, and it has been for me.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Resolving 2020

Doing resolutions here has been a semi-regular thing, which is so very appropriate.  The first one I find refers to returning to the big grant project, which I no longer have to do! Woot!  Of course, the big grant has not stopped the grant machine from operating as the big one only partially funds a bunch of events, and we need to find other money to make those events work out as well as they can.  Indeed, the big success story has been a heap of fun and helps to provide for the greater good, but is getting in the way of other stuff.  So, what shall I resolve for 2020, a year so nice, they named it twice (sorry)?
  1. I have committed to other outlets for blogging, and I need to keep my promises better this year.  So, I hope to see more of my stuff at Political Violence at a Glance and Duck of Minerva.
  2. I also resolve to pick up the pace here.  I don't need to blog every day or four times a day (ah, 2009 ...), but every other day is something I want to aim for.  As long as I have stuff to say.  The challenge is that I can usually find an old post that says something that I need to say again.  
  3. I now have five PhD students at various stages of their program, so I resolve to be reasonably quick about turning around comments on stuff.   I don't think I have ever had so many at one time (and we have a small program).  It may not be as much as some folks, but this is the limit of my capacity, I think.
  4. I resolve to say no to non-NPSIA students.  My foray into teaching undergrads might mean more requests for honors thesis super visions, but, yowza, if I don't say no more often, resolution #3 will be at risk.
  5. I will say no to any more edited volume chapters.  I have three all due at the same time this spring.  All three are interesting projects, but I need to focus on ye olde booke with Phil and Dave.  We are getting close to actually writing and finishing the book.

  6. I resolve to say no to reviews that are out of my area of expertise.  I know that journals are desperate for reviews, but I do my share and I don't think I do anyone any favors if I don't know the literature.  I can't speak to whether something is a contribution in an area I don't know
  7. I resolve to catch up on my journal reading--which would make me a better review (oh wait!).  This is a regular resolution that goes unmet.
  8. I resolve to stay on top of all of the CDSN stuff, not just the fun stuff like the podcast, but the less fun stuff--reporting, accounting, etc.  Do or do not, indeed!
  9. Continue the positivity.  I was called annoyingly happy this year, and I want to keep that up.  
I would say that I resolve to travel less, but I think Mrs. Spew's snort would scare the cat.  I am sure there are other things I should be resolute about, but this covers it for now.

Happy New Year to you and yours!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Spew in Review, 2019: It Always Is Darkest Before the Dawn edition

Oy, we thought all those great folks dying a few years ago made that year a bad one, but 2019 has been a pretty miserable one.  Great for me, but bad for Canada, bad for the US, and bad for the planet.  Pretty sure 2019 will be remembered as the year climate change became quite a real, present thing and not a future problem thing, and, yet, regression was the theme on that front given the politics in many countries including Trump's love of coal and the role of pipelines and such making Canadian politics on this issue so very screwed up.

So, on that cheery note, I want to look back at the year of Spew.  This helps me figure out what happened, and also helps me find key posts years later.  So, enjoy or ignore this yearly exercise in narcissism. 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Revising Rise: Some Ideas While Driving

Mrs. Spew and I returned from visiting her family, and so we had much time to ponder what could made Rise of Skywalker better.  I liked the movie upon second-watching, but rather than revise my first post, (although after watching some of the original movies over the break and seeing Rise again, and, yes, responding to the commentary, I would move Rise from tied with RoTJ to the Ambivalent Tier, perhaps tied with Force Awakens with the conclusion of s1 of Mandalorian pushing it to Rogue 1 territory) I suggest how to revise the movie.

So, various ideas beyond the break, but no wayfinder needed:

Monday, December 23, 2019

Looking Back at the Teens

Tis that time of year where I look back at the year that was.  However, I am too exhausted by the pace of political events, the work put into the Canadian Defence and Security Network, and the emotional drain of seeing the last Skywalker movie.  So, instead, I will ponder a meme that circulated twitter this month: looking back at the 2010's!

There are a few ways to do this:
  1. Compare and contrast where I was on January 1st, 2010 and where I am now personally, professionally and so forth.  
  2. Think about the big events of the decade gone by, especially the more personal ones.
  3. Systematically review changes in culture, politics, and so forth.  
Well, the last would be most interesting and perhaps enlightening, but also the most work.  The easiest is the first, so I will do that instead, with (2) later this week. 

On January 1st, 2010,
  • I was working at McGill, living in Montreal, and searching for a way out.
  • my daughter was a teenager and living at home
  • while I had started working on the NATO project, it was starting to mutate from being about the alliance to being a comparative civ-mil project.
  • I had only recently started blogging and tweeting--both in the spring/summer of 2009. 
 In December of 2019, I am:
  • I am thru running.  I am most happy at Carleton and living in Ottawa.  I just don't imagine any more moves.  Carleton has supported my efforts, provided me with great colleagues, and recognized when I did good.  Ottawa is a great city for an IR person, as I have had so many opportunities to chat with fascinating people.  
  • my daughter is now adulting, living on the West Coast, and gainfully employed. This is all good news, but I miss her greatly.  The weekly skypes are great, but not the same as having her in our lives on a daily basis.  This is the natural way of things, of course.  
  • I am now entirely engaged in comparative civ-mil, taking me from old haunts in Europe to Asia and Latin America.  Ok, engaged in that and adding a heap of administrative work as Director of the CDSN.  I threw up a picture of a dog catching a car when we got the grant, and it was pretty apt.  I know the next seven years and most of the 20's will be spent on this effort.  While it is a heap of work, I have enjoyed the ride, and am very, very thankful for the work done by all of the folks involved and for the continued enthusiasm and support by the partners.
  • Oh, that social media thing?  Oh my.  I may be blogging less these days (mostly because I can re-post old posts that are apt), but I have added podcasting this year to the endless tweeting.  

Friday, December 20, 2019

First, There Was a Trilogy; Then, A Trilogy of Trilogies ...

Next, will we have three series of tri-trilogies?  It is probably too soon to react to seeing Rise of Skywalker, but, I will, because it is my blog.  Spoilers dwelleth below:

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Impeachment? What About My Meme?

I have been tweeting out the same meme for quite some time:

Today, the day after Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives by more votes than any other President (thanks, Jacob, for pointing that out), does this mean this meme is dead?  Only sort of.

I did write here last January arguing that the meme is about not counting on impeachment to solve the Trump problem--that the House might vote to impeach Trump, but there is no way the Senate will vote to convict him and remove him from office.  Hence, stop counting on the impeachment process to get rid of Trump.

The big question right now is not whether impeachment will remove Trump, but whether the process will play out fully as the Founders intended.  Will there be a trial with witnesses and evidence or will Mitch McConnell get a summary judgment and end the process before it really starts?

To do the latter requires two things:
a) McConnell has to have no shame about undermining American institutions.  No problemo there.
b) McConnell deters, inhibits, persuades, bullies nearly all of the GOP Senators to go along.  To have a real trial (still with a fore-ordained outcome) would require a handful of Republican Senators to vote with the Democrats on the rules and various arguments.  Can the Dems get four or so GOP Senators to split?

This latter question is more of a mystery.  Why?  Because there are more than four GOP Senators who are running for re-election in 2020 in purple or even blue states: Cory Gardner of Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine are in blue states; Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Martha McSally of Arizona are in purple states along with David Perdue of Georgia.  Joni Ernst of Iowa, the formerly soybean state, may be vulnerable as well.  Given Collins's conduct on Kavanaugh, don't expect much from her.  One could imagine Lisa Murkowski, who is not up for re-election, mavericking along...

Anyhow, no one knows how this is going to play out, but since I have argued that the GOP is the Party of Bad Faith™, I think the best bet is on a very short trial.  So, yeah, the President will have been impeached, but it will not change who governs, so folks should not have been counting on it.  

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The 2019 Mandate Letter to Minister of Defence: Some Reactions

The mandate letters were released this week, so I thought I would take a look at the Defence letter.  These letters are from the Prime Minister to the rest of cabinet, and, in parlance of principal-agency theory, are the instructions and discretion given by the principal to the agents.  It starts with stuff that applies to all ministers with references to a plan for the middle class and a reference to working within "the minority parliament."  Which ain't easy, of course.  References to dealing with provinces and Indigenous Peoples are part of the generic instructions.  For DND, provincial challenges exist but are not central.  Regarding Indigenous Peoples, they are quite relevant to two obvious areas and perhaps one less obvious area: the Canadian Rangers as the primary Canadian defence force in the north, the desire to recruit a more diverse force, and ... maybe land claims regarding where the CAF bases and exercises.  That last is just a guess, as I don't recall any recent stories. 

The document calls for transparency, which would be a chance for DND, according to those who deal with it.  I remember long ago a parliamentary staffer saying that when they wanted to know what DND was up to, they would call the Pentagon as the Americans would share information more freely. 

The part of the document that is specific to Defence starts with reference to Strong, Secure, Engaged--the product of the 2017 Defence Review.  Given that this was only two years ago and presented a fully costed (or so they say) assessment of the defence picture, it makes sense to stick with it rather have it serve as a baseline.  Indeed, in my interactions with DND/CAF people, it is quite clear this document remains the focal point of thinking and planning for pretty much everyone.

Onto the specifics:

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Afghanistan Papers Quick Reaction

I don't have time to read many of the documents that the Washington Post attained, but I have read the covering story and reactions by others.  My basic take is that this is not the Pentagon Papers, at least not yet, as the stories are mostly about a lack of a coherent strategy, success or progress was hard to measure, about the difficulties of cooperation within and between countries, that clients are unreliable and inevitably so, and so on.  And these things ... were not the product of malfeasance/malice but unfortunately dynamics that are damned near inevitable and, yes, we (those paying attention) knew about most of this stuff.  Indeed, Stephen Harper, reacting to the messed up Presidential election in Afghanistan in 2009, basically admitted defeat.

I tweeted online about a series of original sins which others added on to.  Here, I just want to discuss a key civ-mil dynamic since many of the other things are getting play elsewhere: relentless optimism by the officers leading these efforts.  I wrote in the conclusion of Adapting in the Dust that this would create a credibility gap between civilians and military folks, and I am pretty sure this WashPo report will have the same effect.

Why are the military folks seemingly so optimistic?  Both American and Canadian officers seem to think that they cannot and should not say no when asked to do something.  Sure, the civilians have the right to be wrong, so the military can't say no, but perhaps they can say "x is going to be really, really hard, and it isn't advisable to do x."  But alas, they seem to think they are Can Do! organizations. 

The funny thing is that this is a big contrast to what we knew about the US military in the 1990s--that it was hard to get the military to support intervening in the Balkans and elsewhere.  Deborah Avant wrote a piece called Are Reluctant Warriors Out of Control, not something you might see these days.  What is different? 
  1. I fundamentally believe that the US armed forces still prefers not to fight new wars, but is also pretty interested in escalating the wars they are in and in not leaving a war once they are there.  I remember stories on the Joint Staff about Hugh Shelton, the previous Chairman, resisting Clinton's various missions in the Balkans.  This is the kind of thing that led to Madelaine Albright famously saying "'What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?"  On the other hand, once Mattis became SecDef and Trump delegated to him, we saw an escalation in the use of force and expansion of missions...  So, I am not sure that the US military opposes all missions, but it does seem determined not to leave.
  2. Humanitarian missions of the 1990s?  Not something the military wanted to do.  taking the fight to the terrorists, however defined, not so much opposition.  So, it might be the kind of mission matters.
  3. It could be that 9/11 changed attitudes as the threats to the US and Canada and Europe became more direct. 
Anyhow, we need to improve the civ-mil conversation so that the military can be more pessimistic when it needs to be pessimistic and more optimistic when it is more optimistic.  And the civilians need to listen.  Getting there is really hard, and, yes, the civ-mil relationship needs a heap of trust on both sides.  Is that likely?  Depends on the country. 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

NATO High School: Closer to Reality Than You'd Think

Saturday Night Live finally got there--capturing a bit of International Relations far better than, well, how the US president understands it.  This sketch portrays NATO as if it were high school, with a cool kids table featuring Trudeau/Canada, Macron/France, and BoJo/UK.  Eventually, Merkel/Germany is invited to join and she is super excited to do so, while Trump is left to hang with Latvia. 

With a few quibbles, this is how NATO used to operate with, of course, the US at the cool kids table.  How so?  NATO has always operated with mini-lateralism pushing the multilateralism.  That to push major initiatives forward, a small group of allies work together to develop the agenda and then once they get agreement, they present it to the rest of the alliance.  Oh, and while these mini-groups were led by the US, in my experience, there was a well-coordinated British effort to get the US to do its bidding.  Both the US leadership and clever British manipulation  were lacking from the SNL sketch .... perhaps because the sketch kept up with current events really well, perhaps accidentally capturing Macron's brain death comment.

Let me explain both the past and the present.  In 2001-2002, NATO members became concerned that three separate operations in the Balkans--SFOR in Bosnia, KFOR in Kosovo, and Operation Essential Harvest (really!) in Macedonia--was more expensive and had a variety of seams than if there were a single NATO effort.  So, there were many meetings to "regionalize" the NATO effort in the Balkans, with the idea of centralizing things at NATO's HQ in Naples and developing a better division of labor.  Much of the impetus of this was led by the QUINT: five countries providing the biggest contingents--US, UK, France, Germany, and Italy (not Canada, but I will get to that).  Once these five countries agreed to a plan, they shared it with others.  This is not that controversial or new. 

What was less well known was that much of this was driven not by the US but by the UK--that the British had troops in both Bosnia and Kosovo and desperately wanted to reduce costs by being in one rather than both.  So, the Brits developed a well-coordinated effort to push their agenda, disguised by this larger argument about efficiencies, to get out of Kosovo.  This was most problematic to the French because it meant that they could be alone in the most difficult part of Kosovo--Mitrovica where the Serbs and Albanians bordered each other.  This British effort to work the system, coordinating their personnel in Naples and the various HQ's in the Balkans, with diplomats in Brussels and in DC was best symbolized by something that happened in the Joint Staff in DC.  One day, an early draft of the plan was found on one of the chairs in the Central and Eastern European Division of the Strategic Planning and Policy Directorate of the Joint Staff... where I was working.  We wondered where it came from, but then we realized that the British Defense Attaché had been in the office earlier that day.  So, this is how NATO worked--small groups of the "cool kids" working together with their coolness defined by how much they brought to the mission and then imposing their will gently or not on the rest of the high school alliance.

Now?  How are things different?  Well, in Afghanistan, the group of cool kids was a bit different as it was not just the size of the contingent that determined membership but what they were doing.  So, the US and UK were still the central players because they had large contingents  AND they were relatively unrestricted by domestically imposed caveats (where they could operate, whether they could engage in offensive operations, etc).  The Canadians, while they were in Kandahar, largely got to be in this club as well, because they were willing to move around RC S to help out whoever needed it.  The Germans and Italians?  They had the third and fourth largest contingents, but they got moved to the semi-cool kids table (where Merkel started in the SNL skit?) because they didn't have as much freedom to operate and could not contribute as much to the fight.  The French?  Off in a corner since Chirac was so pissed off at Bush.  Sarkozy got France back into the cool kids table as he removed the restrictions, making France a more valuable player.

Today, NATO is brain dead in Macron's words, as neither the US nor the UK are cool.  Trump hates the club and those in it, British is too busy destroying its relationship with the world to scheme how to get the cool kids to do its bidding.  By default essentially, Trudeau/Canada becomes one of the cool kids, one of the voices of NATO cooperation, as I saw in person at the NATO summit in Brussels in 2018.   And, yes, the audience there ooo-ed and aah-ed when Trudeau appeared, so yeah, definitely a cool kid.  BoJo these days?  Not so much, but I think he was portrayed well by James Corden as being out of synch with the others. 

Anyhow, I never thought I would see the day that a satire on SNL would get NATO better than the President of the US (who thinks of it either as a country club or protection racket).  Did you?

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Party of Bad Faith

When did I stop taking seriously the arguments of the Republicans?  Hard to remember now, but I have taken to calling them the Party of Bad Faith.  Why?  Because they are consistently making arguments that are baldy hypocritical.  The arguments they wield to excuse Trump during the impeachment hearings are exactly the opposite of what they argued when Clinton (Bill) was the target.  McConnell has already said that the supposed Garland rule about not letting a Supreme Court nominee be considered during an election year will not apply with Trump as President.  We can go and on.

The point is that the naked pursuit of power and the ruthless burning down of the norms of democratic governance has got to have consequences.  One of them is that I no longer both to think or say "well, if Obama had done that ..."  Why?  Because it mattered not what Obama did--they were determined to defeat him at every turn.  Democracy requires accepting the loss of power, and not burn everything down.  It also requires that winners don't use the system to destroy the competition.  Threatening to prosecute opponents is not the way to govern.  Perhaps the US would have been better off if Obama had give the signal for his Justice Department to prosecute those who enabled torture and did other awful things.  Little did he know that his successor would burn down the entire system, I guess.

With Devon Nunes, who has acted more on behalf of Trump and Russia than as an overseer, seeking to undermine the process, my take is that these Republicans and their whiny complaints about injustice should largely be ignored.  Playing to them to make the process appear to be fair is a waste of effort as they will always find ways to criticize it.  Just follow the procedures, vote on the articles, have the trial in the Senate, and then Trump will get off.  He will be tarnished by the effort, as his crimes will be apparent to those who are not blind.  The GOP will be tarnished by selling out any and all principles and making arguments entirely in bad faith.  It will not affect the diehards, and Fox will cover it as biasedly as it can.

Basically, this rant is: screw those guys. They have chosen party over country.  They are the Party of Bad Faith.  Let them wear that and let us not waste our time trying to persuade them that they need to be less hypocritical.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Another Summit, More Embarrassment

Trump's performance thus far is about what one expected.  Lots of focus on burden-sharing, not so much focus on what is NATO supposed to be doing.  I get riled up about all of this for so many reasons, but mainly because burden-sharing problems are inherent to alliances (see the classic econ literature) and the focus should be on doing the stuff that the alliance exists to do.  NATO was not formed to debate burden-sharing but to thwart the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union is gone, so NATO has other missions, other priorities, including denying Russia opportunities for faits accompli, countering terrorism (although not following Turkey's list of preferred targets), fighting piracy,  perhaps organizing responses to China's challenges, and building the capacities of states in Africa and the Mideast so that they don't generate refugees (good luck with that one).  That is a pretty full list, but the alliance truly is comatose (my take on Macron's brain death) as its traditional leader, the United States, lacks the capacity (State is gutted, OSD is gutted) to do the thinking, planning, and coordinating to set an agenda for the alliance.   Oh, and it is led by a guy who thinks that any deal that is not super-exploitative in his favor is "unfair" and "nasty."

The US lacks credibility thanks to the Uncertainty Engine-in-Chief.  Right now, I am worried that Trump will respond very emotionally to the video going around that has Trudeau, Johnson, Macron and someone else sharing stories and shock about Trump:

While it nicely illustrates the misaimed projection of Trump--he always complains that countries didn't take the US seriously under Obama, but instead, these leaders are contemptuous of Trump, it will cause Trump to have a tantrum.

I worry about what tomorrow will bring.  Don't you?